We were on the Allure of the Seas sailing out of Miami on the 21st April. There was my wife, child (8) and I. We bought the key based on the package of benefits as opposed to just 1 or 2 of the benefits so believed it was worth the £18.99 per day we paid.
Perk 1 Boarding
We left our hire car at the airport around 10.20am and got Alamo’s free shuttle to the port of Miami arriving about 10.50am. We went up the escalator and asked someone standing beside a key sign where key check in was located. He looked confused and pointed us to a line with loads of people and told us to find the first available agent with an ipad. For some reason there was a mass of people queued for the first 3 or 4 agents but hardly anyone at the far end so we went there and were seen by an agent immediately. I don’t know if we skipped some queue or the mass of people was a few large families on the same booking. We had already checked in through the app so he confirmed everything and retook my wife’s picture and that was us off to security.
Security was painless and we were off up another escalator to pick up my sons muster station wrist band and with that we proceeded to embark around 11.10am.
As we didn’t arrive before boarding started and weren’t sent to any key only check in the key is no benefit here unless you plan to arrive before 10.30am. I thought I read when I booked the key that we had our own check in desks but I can’t find this benefit anywhere so maybe I just misread about priority boarding and assumed it meant priority check in as well. Regardless, 20mins to check in, go through security and board is impressive. The airlines/airports sure could learn a thing or 2 from RCI at Miami.
After stepping through the gangway we encountered our first problem with the key. I approached a crew member and asked were key members dropped off their carry on luggage? She honestly looked at me as if I was speaking a foreign language. Ok I probably was as I have a thick Northern Ireland accent 😊 but she honestly and had no idea what I was on about and asked another employee who told me my luggage would be available outside my room after 1pm. I explained that a key benefit was to drop off all carryons that would be left inside our stateroom and they suggested I try the theatre. I asked which one and they gave me directions. At least they got that right. At the entrance to the Amber Theatre on deck 5 there was a crew member standing beside a key sign and lots of carryon luggage so I knew I was in the right place. They took my room number and checked this against a printed list of key guests and we checked a couple of carryons.
I have seen this mentioned as not much of a benefit but we had been advised to take a carryon with a change of clothes, swimsuits, medication etc. just in case there was an issue with luggage and this allows you to drop this luggage off to be delivered into your room for the 1pm room opening. I’m glad I did this as one of our bags was missing and it was the one with all our clothes for the week. The other 2 bags were in the hall waiting for us. We had spent 10 days in Orlando prior to boarding so had packed 1 large bag with all the stuff we didn’t need for the week that we could put out of the way and just work out of 1 large bag and a smaller one that held my son’s clothing and all our toiletries. So at least we were able to freshen up and change before dinner that evening. When the bag hadn’t turned up before dinner we had been advised by our room attendant to try security on deck 2 in case it had been held for any reason but it wasn’t there. My guess is it was on deck 6 as there were a few bags for deck 6 on our deck 9. It turned up after we had come back from dinner sometime between 7 and 8.
Perk 2 Chops Grille Lunch
I’ve read a few people in the other Key thread turning their nose up at this benefit because you can do Chops Grille anytime but I really liked this benefit. Not having to queue in the Windjammer or go to Park Café was a nice touch and the food was really good in Chops.
We arrived just after 11.30am and there was already a queue to get in. We soon found out it was because a couple at the front of the queue were arguing with the concierge about getting in for lunch as they didn’t have the key. They were being told this was an exclusive lunch for key guests only. At first the concierge couldn’t find their room number against his list after checking up and down the list a few times and when he asked them did they definitely have the key they responded “What’s that?” When he told them they needed the key and would have to leave they argued with him. Come on people move along, us key guests are hungry for our privileges……and the food.
We eventually got seated and had a wonderful lunch. Sorry no pic of the menu for the key guests lunch but you can find it in some of the other reviews. Here are some bonus pics of the Shrimp Cocktail, Filet Mignon and Royal Cheesecake. We all had the same thing except for the Chocolate cake which I only have a half eaten pic of so I won’t post.
There have been reports of lunch being very slow and while it wasn’t quick we were still finished around 12.50 just over an hour once seated so we explored the rest of Central Park before heading to our room at 1pm.
Perk 3 Voom Surf + Stream
Each key guest gets 1 device each. This was really useful as it allowed me to keep in touch with work e-mails during some down time and make my return to work after the cruise a little more relaxing. My son used it to watch You tube videos so it was quick enough for most things. The downside to this is we didn’t get the info on Voom until we got to our room at 1pm. When I had tried to connect to the ship’s wi-fi while standing in the queue at Chops it was asking me to buy a package so I thought I had to wait until I got a code when we got to the room. This isn’t the case. When you register with your username and room number and click on the package it will tell you there is nothing to pay and you are connected. No codes required!!! This is an excellent perk.
Perk 4 Exclusive Key Hours
The rest of the key information was waiting in the room. Here is the schedule of exclusive key hours on the Flow Rider etc.
While the Allure of the Seas has a much larger schedule than most other ships the schedule isn’t really that great. All the Flow Rider hours were at breakfast time 8am-9am when the flow rider is just opening and hardly anyone is about anyway so it’s almost exclusive without the key. The rockwall times between 5 and 7pm were also of no use as we had early dinner sitting (5.15pm) so couldn’t use these. The other times between 2pm and 5pm were all port days which might not be of any use to those on excursions.
We did manage to use the rockwall on the Labadee day as we had come back to get out of the sun for a little while and there was no one else using it and we had a blast. Also the rockwall on Day 1 was of no use as we didn’t have clothing we would be comfortable in.
This was a major fail in my opinion but might be of greater use to those who’s schedules fit better with the times. I did make use of the Flow Rider times but left early to meet my family for breakfast (son was a half inch too short for Flow Rider and wife had no interest so I was on my own). This was great as I’m a novice and after mastering boogie boarding on the 1st go I tried my hand at stand up and was glad there weren’t too many around to watch my laughable attempts. There was never more than 4 or 5 key guests using this perk at any of the flow rider times I attended.
Perk 5 Priority Debarkation and Tender Services
The Allure of the Seas doesn’t have any Tender ports on the Eastern Caribbean schedule and we never needed any priority debarkation at any other time so this was no benefit to us.
Perk 6 The best Seats in the House (Not IMO) Reserved Seating
I wouldn’t call them the best seats in the house at Amber Theatre and we didn’t get to use the perk for the Aqua Theatre as our show was canceled and rescheduled for 10.45pm (of no use with an 8 year old). The seats were as good as you could get in Studio B for the Ice Show. This was a great perk. For a couple of shows we turned up with only 5 minutes to spare and there was plenty of seating for us in the Key Seating. They released the remaining seats to anyone with only a minute or 2 to spare which meant we usually had no one sat beside us.
This is a great perk. Not having to stress about getting to a show 15-30minutes prior to guarantee good seats was really good for us. I can see this having no benefit to those in suites but this was a great benefit to us less privileged minions.
Perk 7 Departure Breakfast and Choice Departure
I’ll start this by saying we were in no hurry to get off the ship. Our flight wasn’t until 5.30pm in the evening and we had no plans or excursions (and hardly any money left). The night before we received our instructions and key baggage tags.
We had planned to not go for breakfast until 8.30am but the ship docked early and the banging outside started at 4.00am so my wife and I were awake so once the little one woke we got ready to go and were down for breakfast about 8.
I was looking forward to breakfast after seeing some reviews but honestly I found it only ok to disappointing. Service was slow. While it was busy I didn’t think it was overly busy for how long service took. Just before we went in I heard a few stories from others who had given up trying to get into the Windjammer as it was rammed but I don’t think that should have had any effect on the key breakfast. Maybe it was slow because they took so long over cooking my steak and eggs. A medium cake well done and over easy eggs had a dry yoke. Don’t get me wrong it was tasty but it wasn’t perfect. My Wife and Son enjoyed their French toast and pancakes so it wasn’t all bad.
After breakfast we headed to the Champayne Bar on deck 5 to leave the ship. When we arrived there was loads of people waiting. It turns out it wasn’t only key guests that were told to meet there. Some people with excursions were also meeting there and it caused confusion among crew members and everyone else. It took about 10-15mins to separate everyone with the excursions leaving first and creating some more space for other key guests that had arrived. There was about 20 of us trying to get off at the same time and one crew member trying to get us all off which was hard work trying to keep us together and not mixed with the excursion guests still in a queue to get scanned off the ship. We turned right after getting off the ship (everyone else seemed to be going left) and were escorted to some elevators that brought us out where all the key luggage was waiting. We headed for customs which was some face recognition scanner and then out onto the street.
Although it was a bit messy to begin with this was really quick and I could see it being a benefit to those in a hurry and willing/needing to go earlier than we did.
Recent reports show the key is now priced at $34.99 per day per guest. IMO it’s not worth that. Even at $19.99 to $24.99 that most have paid for it you really need to think long and hard about whether the sum of each perk adds up to the value. I think it was just about worth it to us and I would consider booking it again but not at that new price. No chance. I hope no one pays it so the price comes back down to a reasonable value for the perks provided.
There was also nothing in our post cruise survey about the key where I could express my views.
EDIT: Just to add the crew members were very diligent in checking everyone had the key for the show seating and use of the private hours. They asked to see our sea pass which had the key symbol printed on it. We only had to wear our key bands for the private hours and we got a fresh one for each hour rather than wear it all the time.